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Minister of the Environment Jim Prentice. (Adrian Wyld/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Minister of the Environment Jim Prentice. (Adrian Wyld/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Ontario, Quebec assail emissions targets Add to ...

A fresh army of political heavyweights and middleweights, from former British prime minister Tony Blair to the premiers of Ontario and Quebec, descended on Copenhagen to convince climate-change negotiators to redouble their efforts to reach a deal.

In a speech Sunday in Copenhagen, Mr. Blair pleaded for a global deal, even if whatever emerges on deadline day - Dec. 18 - is flawed. His comments came as the divide between the rich and poor countries over emission targets and funding to fight climate change in the developing world had widened after a week of negotiations. "We should not make the best the enemy of the good," he said.

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The environment ministers of Ontario and Quebec used a press conference to declare Canada's emission-reduction targets inadequate and wholly unambitious compared with the two provinces' own targets. "It's absolutely imperative that Canada take a tougher position regarding greenhouse-gas emissions," Ontario's John Gerretsen said.

Quebec, which is rich in clean hydro power, recently set an emissions target at 20 per cent below 1990's level by 2020 and slapped a carbon tax on fossil fuels. Ontario, which wants to promote itself as a clean-technology centre as traditional manufacturing gets walloped by the recession and the high dollar, has a target of 15 per cent below 1990's level.

The federal target is 3 per cent below 1990's level by 2020, equivalent to 20 per cent less than 2006's level. The government has made it abundantly clear it will not alter the target even though it is far less than the one it agreed to seven years ago, when it signed the Kyoto Protocol.

Climate-change scientists and environmental groups have accused Canada of being part of the problem, not the solution, in Copenhagen. A new report to be published today called Falling Behind, by PowerUp Canada, a group that lobbies for policies and laws to support clean-energy investments, concludes that the United States is spending 14 times more per capita than Canada on renewable energy. It also says Canada's per capita emissions are rising while those in the United States are going in the opposite direction.

In a press conference Sunday, his first since arriving in Copenhagen, federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice said Canada wanted Kyoto replaced with a new deal that includes all carbon-emitting countries, not just the industrialized countries covered under Kyoto. He added that he is "guardedly optimistic" that a 5- to 10-page political agreement can be reached by Friday, including a timeline to turn it into a legally binding treaty.

Mr. Gerretsen said the provinces want a global deal and national emissions reduction and a carbon cap-and-trade system that business and industry can use to plan long-term investments. "Industry wants a uniform system," he said.

Mr. Blair said any deal is better than none because businesses need certainty if they are to invest in technologies to reduce their carbon footprint. After his speech, he told reporters that even if the 192 countries at the climate-change summit cannot agree to 25-per-cent to 40-per-cent reductions in carbon emissions, a smaller, though still significant cut "will get people adjusting their investment decisions. You'll get the process under way."

Negotiations to break the deadlock between the rich and poor countries will take on a new urgency early this week, ahead of the arrival of more than 100 heads of state and government in Copenhagen on Thursday and Friday.

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